Time to Prepare for Shortages

Shortages and price increases are hitting the supply chain again. Some of the greatest effects are occurring in raw materials used in PCB fab and metal fabrication. Silicon components and capacitors are also showing increases in lead times and pricing.

Supply Chain Challenges are on the Rise Once Again

The global electronic component market is experiencing an increase in lead-times on many commodities. We report that about 70% of the commodity lead-times we track, are seeing an increase. The range of lead-time increases vary depending on manufacturer; they range from 2 weeks to 20 weeks.

Currently, Analog Devices and ST Micro are reporting lead-time increases into the 24 to 26-week range with warnings that all demand for 2021 will need to be placed soon to guarantee product. Some of the active commodities are also experiencing price increases in conjunction with the lead-time increase. The increasing demand along with the current coronavirus surge will continue to have a negative affect on the entire supply chain.

MLCC (multi layer ceramic capacitors) lead-times have also shown an increase, up to the 20-week range once again. The increased demand – due to 5G networks, smart phones and electric cars – is putting an extensive strain on this commodity.

The bare PCB commodity is also experiencing supply chain challenges. Both lead-times and pricing are being affected:

Upstream raw materials, such as copper foil, glass fiber, epoxy resin and solvents, for copper cladded laminates manufacturing have been in short supply. The situation is getting worse with several industrial accidents that occurred in the upstream chemical factories. As a result, the supply of copper clad laminates has become unstable, and longer lead-times and price increases are on the horizon. In some cases, allocation or a refusal to confirm delivery has happened.


Here are some market trends affecting those raw materials mentioned above:

Copper cladded laminated > 50%

·       Cost up in June 2020

·       Cost up in Aug 2020

·       Cost up in Sep 2020

·       Cost up in Nov 2020 x 3

RMB vs USD exchange rate increase by 6% since June

Gold price from $1500/ounce in Q1 of 2020 to >USD $1800/ ounce now 20% up

Nickel price from $5500/lb. to > $7000/lb. now 27% up 

Another commodity being affected is metal work. Steel stock, HR (hot rolled), GALF (galvanized) and plate, went up again on, or around December 12, 2020. There was also a notification that material pricing will be further increasing starting in the 1st quarter of 2021. Aside from the rising costs in material – lead times for securing some of those materials may also affect projects.

This is a quote from a metal supplier; “Steel Service Centers are more concerned with Mills being able to fulfill the supply pipeline. They have requested that we get as much product on order to meet our 2021 requirements.  We just need to commit to the tonnage. We would need to take receipt of the material sometime in the first quarter or early second quarter.”

Please see the listing below of some of the reasons from a news bulletin from one of the main vendors for steel:

·        Mills have now restricted tons booked

·        Mills have started pulling deals

·        New orders are subject to Mill acceptance and price in effect at time of ship from Mill

·        Continuation in pricing upward this week

·        No mills are currently entertaining any new spot orders

·        Mills are still trying to fill late orders, some items have trickled in, very limited amounts

·        Mills limiting future booking

·        New Mill orders are into March

·        Continued Market constraints

·        More price increases expected over the next 30 days

·        Lead times are out up to 12 weeks

·        Steel production takes an upward trend not seen in some time

·        Scrap price went up

·        Steel suppliers NLMK (Novolipetski) and CSI (California Steel Industries) have raised coating extra due to high Zinc pricing

·        US Steel finalized the purchase of Big River and startup of IN blast Furnace


We are Here To Help

During times like this, it is important to keep in close contact with your EMS Program Manager to manage supply and lead times. We may recommend changes in purchasing volumes and forecasts to mitigate risk.

Prototype Supply Will be Affected Too

While smaller prototype volumes may seem less likely to be affected, that may not be the case. As in past periods of allocations, some whole categories of components may come in and out of stock with little to no notice.

To better prepare you should:


·        Move to smaller passive component sizes if possible. Suppliers will often allocate more fab time on the smaller package sizes due to the lower raw materials content.

·        Double check your bill of materials to make sure the components you have selected are available at your chosen distributors as the last thing you do before sending your files in for an order.

·        Be ready with substitution options. Quick response to our request for a substitution can save days in the build process.

As always, we will continue to monitor all supply chain challenges, and reach out to customers accordingly.


Gary DeGrave, Corporate Director Supply Chain

Milwaukee Electronics


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